A traditional indicator - Total Water Use
 
 
 
Average daily use


 
Talking Points
 
 
 
  • Water use is going up
     
  • There is a limit
     
  • Not very personal
     
  • Easy to pass the buck


 
Narrative
 
 
 
Once you decide what you want to measure you have to make sure that the way you show it helps the community to understand what it means. Indicators have to speak clearly to people. Here is an example of a measure of a problem in a town that has a lake for a water supply.

The number of gallons per day is the line moving up from left to right. The straight line at 3.4 is what is called the safe yield: how much can be taken out of the lake after two consecutive drought years without adversely affecting the lake's ability to refill itself. The straight line at 4.5 is the average yield: the amount that can be taken out in normal years. As you can see, the amount used is getting close to the safe yield.

The typical response to this graph is: "Someone should solve this problem. Tell the selectmen that they need to find a way to get us more water." Never mind that the selectmen are only paid about $3000 per year for their work and if they raise taxes they will be voted out of office!

This measure shows that there is a problem but does not help the community understand what is causing the problem.
 
 
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Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.